Category: Uncategorized

Why I’m a Supporter

Monica Lennon, Councillor for South Lanarkshire, tell us about why equal representationmonica matters to her and the very real sexism that women candidates and elected representatives face even today. 

When I stood in the 2012 council elections I hadn’t fully appreciated how rare women are in local politics. It was little things at first. “You’re not like most councillors”, one officer remarked as I settled into my new role. “Well done you – a lady councillor,” was one verbal pat on the back from a well-meaning constituent. 

Slightly more awkward moments followed – that time when a local clergyman only acknowledged me at an event when a male colleague signaled I was a councillor too. He’d ignored me when he thought I was the bag-carrier.

The brutal fact is that over three-quarters of council seats are occupied by men.  I am one of the 24 per cent. The gender imbalance in local politics is staggering. 

During the referendum it bothered me a great deal. The persistent gender gap in voting intentions kept ‘women’ in the spotlight.  And thanks to the impressive grassroots campaigning by women on both sides of the referendum divide, the under-representation of women in Scottish politics has climbed its way up the political agenda.

Placing an even number of men and women around her Cabinet table, Nicola Sturgeon is earning a reputation as a First Minister committed to gender equality.  Jim Murphy and Kezia Dugdale are leading a gender-balanced Scottish Labour top team. Both the SNP and Scottish Labour are committed to quotas for public boards.

But we continue to hear very little about the exclusion of women from town halls and city chambers across Scotland. It wasn’t hugely difficult for Nicola Sturgeon and Jim Murphy to ensure the top jobs in their teams were shared evenly between men and women. In contrast, smashing down the barriers that keep women out of the corridors of power in their own communities requires serious intervention. 

Gender equality is a cornerstone of our democracy at every tier. Politics is too important to be left in the homogenous hands of a few. That’s why I support Women 5050, quotas and all.

In the aftermath of the referendum, Women 5050 was born and warring politicos were reminded there are many issues on which we agree.  As general election swords prepare to clash, Women 5050 is the perfect place to take refuge and acknowledge that your opponents are mere mortals too.  If a fairer Scotland is your goal, where women and men in a community near you have the same opportunities to contribute to public life, sign up and get involved. 

Monica Lennon is a Councillor in South Lanarkshire and is Vice Chair of Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse Constituency Labour Party 

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Why I’m A Supporter

Sarah Beattie-Smith, Scottish Green Party activist, tells us why she supports Women 5050 and why a more gender equal Scotland matters:kZN89nQN

A week after the referendum, I found myself back campaigning in the same spot on Edinburgh’s Leith Walk where I’d spent the fortnight before the vote, persuading folk to vote Yes. Only this time, I was bridging the Yes/No divide with Talat Yaqoob, no campaigner and fabulous feminist behind the Women 50:50 campaign, talking to passers by and signing them up to the 50:50 petition.

Standing in the chilly sunshine that day we had a mixed response – twitter informed us that we were traitors to our causes whilst passers by looked at us blankly when we asked if they’d like to sign our petition for gender equality. But thankfully, we had plenty of people stop and chat, sign up and thank us for campaigning on such an important issue.

And of course it is vitally important. In Scotland today, women make up just 35% of our MSPs and a measly 22% of our councillors. We are second class citizens in politics and even more so in the board room where less than 21% of FTSE 100 company board members are women. So why is this a problem? Simple – if we cannot achieve equality in leadership and representation, how can women ever hope to achieve it in the workplace and in our domestic lives? Structural change is badly needed, alongside the policies, practices and attitudes to make it inevitable.

The Scottish Green Party has long had gender equality at the heart of our policy and practice, opting for gender balanced selection processes and co-conveners instead of leaders. Our policies, favouring universal, funded childcare and a well funded public sector are also made with women and tackling inequality in mind so it was a no brainer for us to join the Women 50:50 campaign. However we’re not immune to structural inequality and embedded cultural practice. In party meetings you’ll often still find that women will make the tea and the men speak first – such engrained gendered behaviour is evidently tough to break out of.

Yet, we all have a responsibility to try, in order to make Women 50:50’s goals a reality. To get more women into politics and into leadership, men must be willing to stand aside once in a while and women must be willing to take their place. Without these attitudinal changes, structural change is miles away.

Throughout the referendum campaign many hundreds of thousands of us – on both sides – campaigned for a fairer, more equal Scotland. But that fairer Scotland won’t just emerge from one vote, regardless of the outcome. Nor will it happen overnight. That responsibility now rests with all of us.

Sarah is on Twitter: @SarahBS_27

Are we a step closer?

Two exciting things happened with the campaign this week!

1. Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, stated she support the campaign during a live Q&A on Facebook;

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Time for some champagne?

2. The Smith Commission announcement of further devolved power,  included the devolution of elections.

So we will have the powers to implement quotas and a First Minister who is happy to support the campaign. By 2020 we could have a very different (equal) looking parliament.

Thank you to all of the amazing supporters and the over 600 public pledges we have had! LET’S KEEP GOING!

PRESS RELEASE: Today’s legislative programme gender pledge

PRESS RELEASE

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Women 5050 welcome the 5050 by 2020 pledge, but change starts from within.

The First Minister’s pledge today of a 50/50 gender equality split by 2020 on public, private and third sector boards, has been warmly welcomed by women 5050, the campaign for 50% representation of women in councils, in Scottish Parliament and on public boards. But emphasise, that encouragement of the pledge will only be taken seriously if the parliament pushing it reflects the same ideals and encouraged Nicola Sturgeon to sign up to the campaign.

Talat Yaqoob, feminist activist and steering group member for Women 5050 said:

“it’s clear that the First Minister takes women’s representation seriously, the pledge is of course, an illustration of that, however there is a difference in a pledge and taking direct action. The Women 5050 campaign is seeking change across Scotland’s public life, that must include the Scottish Government and our council chambers, let’s lead by example. Seeing the First Minister support women 5050 would be a sure sign of the commitment to gender equality”.

Alison Johnstone, Scottish Green Party MSP said:

“We should applaud the First Minister on setting this challenge to the private, public and third sector boards in Scotland. We should now set the same challenge to national and local government representation.”

“In creating a fair gender split, we have to practice what we preach and set ourselves the same challenge at all levels of representation. This is a first step and the next is signing up to the Women 5050 campaign.”

…ends

Press Release: A 50/50 cabinet is a great first step

PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE; MONDAY 24TH NOVEMBER

Women 5050 welcomes the 50/50 cabinet, but it’s only the first step

Women 5050, the cross party campaign group pushing for 50% quotas for women in parliament, councils and public boards, welcomes Nicola Sturgeon’s gender equal cabinet, who today are meeting for the first time. The campaign group stated that the new First Minister has illustrated that progress on gender equality can be achieved with political will.

However, the campaign urges Nicola Sturgeon to follow fellow MSPs and publically sign up to the campaign pledge for quotas in the Scottish Parliament, councils and public boards by 2020.

Alison Johnstone, Green MSP and who co-launched the campaign said:

The First Minister has taken some very positive steps in appointing her Ministers, but the real prize will be a Parliament that looks like the people it represents. Nicola Sturgeon should make it clear that if her Government gets new powers over equality or elections, they will be used to bring gender balance to the Scottish Parliament.”

Fiona Mckay, Professor at the University of Edinburgh and steering group member of Women 5050 said:

“When it comes to promoting women’s equal representation in Scottish politics, the time has come for political leaders to support strong quotas enshrined in electoral law. More than half of all countries of the world now have some sort of quota in place and research shows that quotas are the ‘fast track to equality’. But voluntary party quotas rely on individual parties and have not gone far enough. It is time for Scotland to follow the example of other European countries, including France and Spain, who have already gone down the path of legally mandated quotas which require all parties to take action.”

Vonnie Sandlan, NUS Scotland women’s officer said:

Women 50-50 is doing a fantastic job of bringing together those from all parties, and none, to say that no more will women go without their rightful place at every level of Scottish public life. It’s a campaign that NUS Scotland is proud to play a part in, and one we want to see all parties and the Scottish Government get involved with. We need to stand together to push for the powers and the purpose to make Scotland fairer for all of us. The First Minister has done a huge amount already to secure the fair representation of women within the Scottish Government, but we need to see that extended to all women in Scotland.

…ENDS